Sunday, September 13, 2009

Salmon Marmitako

This recipe its a twist to a classic Basque Country's recipe and it was published at the Juneau Empire:

Salmon Marmitako: Stew for a Spanish fisherman

Ginny Mahar

Fall comes early to these parts. I saw the first signs in mid-August while biking out the road. Movement caught my eye at the edge of the forest; a flicker of silver and green, as one falling leaf rocked its way to the ground, and then another.

Today the driveway is littered with leaf jerky, the fireweed stalks look like they've been rolled in snow and autumn is filling our noses with its damp bouquet. It's not cold yet, just barely crisp, but something in my body knows that it's time for warming food - something that will radiate heat all the way to fingers and toes.

The recipe below has been borrowed from many generations of Spanish and Basque tuna fishermen and adapted to reflect the bounty of our own waters. Originally developed in the galley of a fishing boat, marmitako uses simple ingredients that store well. Tomatoes, potatoes, onions and peppers are brought to life with a bit of sherry, a sprinkle of capers, and the magical dust known as smoked paprika. Nestle some cubed salmon into the pot, oven-crisp some olive oil toast and you've got a dinner that will make you happy the mercury's falling.

Salmon marmitako (serves 6 to 8)

The Spanish make Marmitako with tuna, but salmon makes a fabulous understudy here. Smoked paprika, which is now widely available in the spice section of most grocery stores, adds real depth and richness to the flavor of this stew. Pair this with a crisp and light-bodied white or rose wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Pinot Gris.

2 pounds salmon fillets, skinned, boned, and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 red bell peppers

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced shallots

½ cup dry sherry

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

½ teaspoon sugar

One 14-ounce can chicken broth

2 tablespoons capers, drained

¼ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Best quality olive oil, for garnish

1 artisanal loaf of crusty bread

1. Sprinkle the cleaned and cubed fish with ½ teaspoon sea salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. To roast the bell peppers, heat the broiler and place the peppers on a baking sheet in the upper ⅓ of oven. Watch closely and using metal tongs, rotate the peppers once they begin to blacken, until all sides are evenly charred. Remove from oven. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove stems, seeds, and blackened skin. Cut the roasted pepper flesh into a large dice and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350. In a large (5 quart) roasting pan or oven-proof casserole dish, toss potatoes and onions with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt, and spread evenly. Place uncovered in preheated oven, 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.

4. In a medium (1½ quart) sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add shallot, sherry, cayenne and smoked paprika and cook 2 minutes more to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate. Add remaining ½ teaspoon salt, sugar, crushed tomatoes, diced roasted peppers and chicken broth. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, uncovered.

5. Pour tomato mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle evenly with capers.

6. Cover and place in oven 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Meanwhile, tear the loaf of bread into serving-size pieces, brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet.

7. Remove stew from oven, uncover and nestle the cubed fish evenly atop the stew. Cover and return to oven, along with oiled bread, for 5 to 7 minutes. Fish should be moist and barely opaque. Do not overcook.

8. Sprinkle stew with chopped parsley, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot in shallow bowls along with toasted bread.

Just to point to the obvious, once again, Basques are not Spaniards and Marmitako is a Basque recipe. The recipe may be the same in neighboring Spanish state but you can rest assured that they would never name one of their recipes in euskara, remember, they want the Basque language (and the entire cultural identity around it) to disappear.

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